Knee-High Volunteers Are Rewarded with Their Own Private Kokua Festival in 2010

Keiki Power


Musician Jack Johnson with his wife, Kim, stands side-by-side with the next generation of environmental stewards. Photo: Courtesy Captured Love Photography

For Hawaii’s music fans, the Kokua Festival is a chance to see Jack Johnson—and guest artists such as Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper and Dave Matthews—live and in our own home state. But for a small group of Island students, the main concert will be yesterday’s news. These kids will have already been treated to a private show by the concert’s headliners the previous morning, minus the crowds.


The event, dubbed Keiki Kokua Day and scheduled to take place on April 22 at the Waikiki Shell, started in 2008 as a way to reward students who participated in a Kokua Earth Action Project (KEAP). To become involved in KEAP, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation asks public and private schools to outline an environmental project they’d like to take on in the upcoming school year, whether in the classroom, on campus or in the community. If the proposal is accepted—and all of them have been thus far—then the foundation awards a mini-grant of $1,000 maximum per school, per year, to put the project into motion.


Since some of these efforts are new to the teachers, the foundation offers guidance if it’s needed. “We see ourselves as a partner and act as a resource, making sure that we do whatever we can to support the project,” says Carol Feinga, coordinator for the annual event and KEAP.


In the past two years, more than 40 projects have been completed. For example, in 2008, fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Sunset Beach Elementary tried out vermicomposting. They constructed worm bins, fed the critters cafeteria waste (which diverted food from the landfill) and created natural fertilizer for their vegetable garden. In 2009, fourth graders from Waialae School in Kaimuki made reusable bags from donated clothing and distributed them to their fellow students and to the community, hoping to decrease the usage of plastic bags. This year, 11 projects from nine schools are underway, ranging in scope from aquaponic gardening to energy-conservation awareness.


In addition to the concert, students take part in workshops provided by sponsors—which this year include Simple Shoes, Bill Healy Foundation, Stretch Island Fruit Co. and Revolusun—tailored to the students’ projects. “The activities offer kids an extension to the work they’ve been doing. They come away with a feeling of encouragement, because they see on a larger scale that systems are in place,” says Feinga. A slideshow of all the KEAP projects will also be shown, to inspire students through the work of their peers.


“The event reminds us of what the foundation is really about, which is encouraging positive change in our keiki,” says Feinga.